(from the Morning Star)

Think back to 1980 - Britain was blighted by job losses and mass unemployment during one of the worst recessions ever witnessed and Thatcher's government used the recession to attack the unions, drive down wages and persecute and exploit unemployed workers.

It was in these bleak times for the working class that Salford TUC Unemployed Centre (SUCRC) was set up following a campaign to save jobs at the Gardners engineering factory. The centre is still going strong and is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

It continues to assist local unemployed people in obtaining welfare benefits and offering advice on employment law and debt counselling.

Thousands of dismissed and victimised workers have been represented in the workplace and at tribunals by the SUCRC staff, and thousands of pounds in compensation has been won back for those clients who have never been charged for these services.

SUCRC also runs a Big Lottery-funded scheme called Closing The Gap which assists people with debt problems, basic literacy and numeracy skills, confidence building and CV courses.

The centre is locally regarded as the fourth emergency service and the vulnerable people of the community owe the founders a huge debt of gratitude.

In the '80s and '90s unemployed people marched to demand the right to work - as well as increases in benefits and training - under the banner of Peoples' March For Jobs.

The Salford centre participated in every march, organising the 1995, 1996 and 1998 instances and providing practical support for others who were involved.

Since then the TUC annual conference has called for an organisation to retrain, recruit and service unemployed workers, as the Trade Union Movement does not organise or negotiate for unemployed workers.

The vulnerability of people without jobs and representation is so very clear, yet the Con Dem government is seeking to put the burden of the current financial debts onto the backs of public sector workers through cuts in many public services and jobs.

The public sector unions and the TUC are fighting back and putting forward alternatives to these unfair and unnecessary cuts, proposing that the financial deficit could be cut by Robin Hood-style taxes, tighter control over tax evasion, decommissioning of the Trident missile programme and a halt on privatisation of public services.

The latest attacks on the welfare state by the coalition may lead to those without jobs being forced to do voluntary work to retain access to their welfare, while the lucky few with jobs will have no choice but to accept pay freezes and cuts from increasingly privatised services.

Since the interests of the employers, bankers and their political parties are the same - they want us to work as hard as possible for as little as possible in order to maximise their profits - these unemployed workers badly need a union to represent them - either a current TUC-affiliated union or a dedicated unemployed workers union similar to those that existed in the 1920s and '30s.

The Salford TUC Unemployed & Community Resource Centre and the other TUC centres need the full support of unions to ensure that the unemployed obtain their full rights and benefits and protect and represent them against exploitation and forced "voluntary" labour schemes.

Alec McFadden is development manager of Salford UCRC. For more information visit www.salforducrc.co.uk